The beginner’s guide to losing body fat
Improvements in body composition are not everyone’s goal but it is definitely one of the most frequently discussed aims of why people go to the gym so here are a few tips for those of you starting out on your journey and looking to lose a bit of body fat (or tone up as it’s also called)
- QUICK WINS – When you’re starting out there are normally several very simple adjustments you can make to your life that will help you. Number one on the hit list is reducing sugar intake, this includes secret sugar such as “unsweetened” fruit juice which is still as sugary as coke. My top 5 quick wins:
- Reduce sugar – no sugary soft drinks (diet or water), no more fruit juice, no sugar in coffee and tea, no cookies and cakes. You can make this adjustment instantly and it will have an impact
- Stop using a coffee boy in the office. If you want a coffee stand up and go and get it
- Use the stairs every time – increase your daily energy expenditure significantly by avoiding escalators and lifts
- Pre eat – If you’re going out to a meal then have a snack before you go, something light to take the edge off your hunger. Same thing if you’re going to a supermarket, eat a banana or an apple or a handful of nuts. Being hungry makes you eat excessively and make poor choices
- Get some outdoor time – it’s not easy in Qatar but aside from using energy going outside is good for your health (proven science now). So try and get 10-15 minutes of outdoor time each day
- EAT MORE PROTEIN – There is a good chance that you’re not eating enough protein to allow you to synthesise muscle, muscle is good. High protein diets have a metabolic fat loss advantage versus low protein. Protein calories are “inefficient” when compared to carbs and fat – i.e. it takes more energy to extract energy from amino acids than it does from carbs. How much protein – 2.5 grams per kg of lean body weight (your bodyweight less your fat). This can go as high as 3-4g/kg for more advanced athletes. Stick to lean protein fish, chicken and lean beef. Don’t worry too much about the grams at this stage – just try and increase your lean protein consumption a little bit
- BUILD MUSCLE – Muscle is your friend for fat loss. Simply having muscle means you burn more calories even when you’re sitting watching Netflix. If you’re trying to lose fat and you’re doing 60 minutes on an elliptical this is not the way to go. Squat, Deadlift and Press your way to leanness. It doesn’t have to be heavy, use controlled tempo, full range of motion and good technique and try and train for strength at least twice a week.
- EAT BETTER (NOT LESS, BETTER) – For beginners it’s very often a case of improving the quality of food to get initial results. We don’t have to weigh everything at this stage. I don’t mean it has to be expensive organic chicken what I mean by better is increase the complexity of the nutrients. We have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight but not all calories are equal (as you can see from the protein example above). If your food is harder to break down then your body uses more energy to convert the fuel to energy for use. Top tips to eat better:
- More green vegetables – green stuff is more or less free food; eat more of it, it’s just good, more fibre good, more vitamins good (and certainly not bad), more filling good. Frozen stuff is absolutely fine and often better than fresh. Local cabbage is also super super cheap in Doha so stick some more on your plate!
- Snack – get someone to make you snacks for work. Getting super hungry is a disaster waiting to happen. Whole fruit, nuts – just something to take the edge off your hunger a couple of hours after your meals
- Find the most unprocessed variety of the food – for example if you eat muesli then use raw, unprocessed oats, if you eat bread then go for the dark brown seeded style, if you have potatoes then don’t peel them – more fibre, more filling, less efficient calories.
- Protein and fats – protein as above, fats make sure each meal has some healthy fat in it. You need a bit of fat. Adding a spoon of cold EV olive oil to your veggies after cooking can transform the taste too
- Read the labels – Sugar comes in many forms, learn them all – evaporated cane juice is sugar, fructose is sugar, concentrated grape juice is sugar. We don’t do sugar or transfats
- INCREASE YOUR DAILY ENERGY EXPENDITURE – FACT you burn more calories outside a gym than you will in a gym. Your day is maybe 15 waking hours, and you spend 1 of those in the gym. In the other 14 what can you do to burn more calories? Loads and loads! It’s obvious really but you need to make an effort – touched upon in the quick wins here’s my full list no more coffee boy – make your own, use the stairs always, always; don’t drive around looking for a good parking space – park and walk (this will save you time and sanity too); if you sit for work then set a 15 minute alarm – get up walk around and back to work; walk the dog; go outside and play with your kids; play more sports swim, play tennis/basketball/football/catch/anything
- SLEEP MORE – Try and get your eight hours of good quality sleep. Put the phone away at 8pm, you don’t need to answer a work email at 8pm, wind down and relax and sleep! Sleep deprivation is proven to make you hungrier and leads to increases in a hormone than reduces energy expenditure
Tried all this and things still not working for you? Come and have a chat – let’s see what we can do to help.